Feller-Newmark subdivision seeks SEQR declaration

The quest to build a major subdivision on Feller-Newmark Road returned to Red Hook planners once again on Nov. 18, as the developer sought environmental approval for the project.

Engineer Michael Bodendorf, accompanied by a Long Island attorney representing the developer, Landmark Properties, was hoping for a SEQR determination on the 11-lot planned development on 100.5 acres, a project that has been in the works since 2009.

He didn’t get his wish, as planning board members cited numerous issues still outstanding and neighbors cited their continued opposition to a cul-de-sac subdivision set amongst Red Hook’s farmlands.

Planning board chair Christine Kane read a town highway department letter of April 13 that disapproved of a planned retaining wall and French drains along the road because of maintenance and cost. The department recommended a catch basin and a culvert pipe be installed instead, and suggested that the town get an easement for the portion of the drain that would end in the development in order to ensure maintenance and right-of-way.

Kane also read comments from the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) listing nine areas of concern about the subdivision, to be called Preserves at Lakes Kill, including a silt fence, lighting, water quality, road salt, storm water, streams, and driveway impact.

Asked whether storm water runoff would discharge into the existing wetlands on the property, Bodendorf said there would be no impact. The infiltration basins, he said, should deal with road salt runoff and any other storm runoff.

Kane then read letters from area residents unable to attend the meeting. The first was from Robert McKeon, whose property straddles Feller-Newmark Road. McKeon was surprised to learn the project was back on the agenda because the issues of proper site distances (either through excavation of the hillside opposite the proposed road entrance or a combination that included a retaining wall) had not been answered so a SEQR review cannot be completed, his letter said.

“As the farm family with the adjacent property, we ask you once again to consider the true traffic impact,” McKeon said, adding that he hoped the board would consider the proposal carefully, “as it continues to morph with desperate attempts to gain approval.”

A second letter from Red Hook resident Jason Alderman requested that the planners require the developers to finalize their proposal so the SEQR process could be opened for public comment. Alderman called the plan inconsistent with the character of the road and the town.

Attorney John Wagner appeared frustrated by the length of the process and explained the developers had done everything to create an environmentally friendly site.

“We’re now down to 11 lots in a very tight cluster and over 80 acres are being preserved. It’s a remarkable project,” he said.

Wagner also said that either the retaining wall scenario or an earlier proposal to widen the road is possible, so the developers would like to move forward with the SEQR process.

“Which is it,” asked Kane, “the retaining wall or widening the road?”

Planning Board attorney Jennifer Gray said that a SEQR determination could be made on both alternatives since the plan involves a major subdivision.

So the SEQR process then began, as Kane read aloud the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF). The review found potential impacts to the wetlands, vernal pools, groundwater, agricultural land resources and traffic, but found no impact on surface water runoff, air quality, public health and safety.

The final discussion was how 11 new families would impact the road usage and whether that would interfere with farming equipment that also uses the road.

Gray said, “In the SEQR analysis, it has to have a significant adverse impact.” She suggested asking the traffic engineer whether there was a way to calculate auto use vs. farm equipment use of the road, which Kane agreed to do.

In the end, no action was taken and the project was put on the agenda for the planning board’s Dec. 2 meeting.

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